Changing Faces - Part Four

Micaela

Leaning back on her heels, Raven stared at her forearms. They were buried nearly to her elbows in mud, submerged so that she could not see the deep, dark shade of her own skin.

Reaching up with one hand, she absentmindly wiped away a raindrop, realizing too late the action had left a streak of brown soil across her brow.

Grimacing, Raven looked about; near her playsite was a small tree, a broad-leaf species.

Scooting over, she plucked a handful of leaves from its branches, being careful to grip only one edge of the bundle. Using the rest, she wiped off the majority of the mud, leaving only a faint brown streak.

Satisfied, she returned to her playing. Being one of those children for whom a playmate was not possible, Raven had, by her fourth year, mastered the art of playing by herself.

Her Mere forbade her to leave the grounds, but the garden, orchard, and lawn were her realm. Colette (for that was what Eloise called her) had given up on keeping Raven 'respectably clothed', insisting only that the girl at least wear a short shift. This allowed greater freedom of movement for Raven than for other girls, and she took full advantage of it.

Leaning over her work, Raven carefully placed a dollop of soil in just the right crammy, being sure to use her fingernail to do away with a tiny dribble that detracted from her creation.

Standing up, Raven surveyed her masterpeice.

It was a twisting, writhing, two-feet tall mud sculpture--rather abstract, but Raven thought it held its own charm.

She adored creating; that's why it saddened her to see her creations melt in the sun, or dissolve in the rain, or be trampled by dogs. She loved them, but it was inevitable. Mud and earth were her only tools, and Mere, for whatever reason, refused to allow her to carry them inside.

That meant she would slave over them for hours, squirells her only witnesses, only to know they would not last.

(And) she thought to herself (it's not as if squirells can appreciate my art.)

Oh Well.

Standing up, Raven smiled. She had to admit, finishing her projects made her feel good; all happy, with a hot glow that made her cheeks tingle.

Hitching up her skirt, Raven tore across the yard at top speed. Eloiser often said she was faster than she should be; Eloise said full-grown men weren't as fast as Raven.

Then again, Eloise said a lot of things.

Raven lost herself, listening to the wail of the rushing air as it whizzed by her ears, striking her feet upon the ground with more force than was necessary.

She was racing across a field, full tilt. Various small animals made their homes in these fields, building burrows which were impossible to see, especially when one was tearing across said field in a flurry of motion. Were she to jam a foot into one of those holes, she could concievably break her leg.

Raven was no fool; her Mere had warned her many times of the danger. Raven didn't care. She left her fate up to destiny, chance, happenstance, and Father Adalard's God. If she wedged her foot, it would hurt her, but it was an If. It's something completely beyond her control, and Raven liked it that way.

Her speed slowed as she mounted a hill, gravity plaing its tricks agaisn't her body.

Her favorite tree was right ahead; an old, worn tree, which long ago had been struck by lightening. The blast had split it nearly in two, breaking the tree down the middle to its base. The two halves now leaned over the slope of the hill, a nearly level surface.

Reaching up, she caught an often gripped branch in her hand, swinging her up with the power of inertia. Her bare feet gripping the well-worn wood like monkey paws, she clambered up, hands, fingers, and toes grasping the branches.

Pausing only when she reached the most slender branch that would hold her weight, Raven gripped a hand-hold above her with her right hand, steadied herself on the branch with her left foot, and braced agaisn't the trunk with her right.

Across the orchard, within her field of view, was a road.

Mere forbid her to ever go near that road, but Raven could watch it from her perch.

A carridge came up the road, pulled by a yellow horse. It was stopped when it came to the drive right before the doorway to the house.

The man guiding the horse lept off the carridge and opened the door to the vehicle.

A girl, all of ten, stepped out. She was tall for her age, with an almost white mass of curls--natural ones at that. She had a soft pink and white to her seen in the best ladies.

Mere burst out of the house, shouting words Raven had to strain to hear: "Annette! Annette, my darling!"

The girl looked momentarily annoyed, then smiled wanely and embraced her.

Raven frowned. Annette. The girl her mother read letters from sometimes. Mere called Annette her sister, and that Annette was normal. Better than normal; she could speak three languages, play minuetes upon the piano, and pour tea. Raven wasn't sure how much skill it took to pour tea, but Mere made it sound as if it took a lot.

But Annette was away at something called a seminary, which Mere said Raven could never go to. Raven didn't care; 'seminary' sounded like something having to do with punishment, anyway.

"Raven?!" Eloise called, running over, huffing and puffing, "your Mere is going to be..be very busy with Annette--it's best you..you come in now." Eloise gasped.

Raven looked at her old nurse skeptically. She wasn't sure why that girl Annette was here, but it made Mere excited and Eloise run, which was an achievement in itself.

As Eloise gripped the little girls hand she restrained a shiver. There were times Eloise was sure Raven knew more than any fou-year-old had a right to know--and she was certain that Raven laughed at her behind her back. (The child is simply _creepy_) Eloise decided, leading the child towards the house (but perhaps having a proper sister will shape her up)

Sometimes, despite her apparent devotion to her young charge, Eloise did not like Raven at all.


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